The flames reach the ancient sequoias; Crews in pitched battle to save Giant Forest Grove

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THREE RIVERS, Calif. (TBEN) – Sunday’s hot, dry weather added to the challenges facing California firefighters as they struggle to keep the flames from sinking further into a grove of ancient redwoods, where the base of the world’s largest world tree was wrapped in protective film. Meanwhile, the flames had reached the giant trees of another grove.

Fire officials warned stronger winds were also contributing to “critical fire conditions” in the KNP complex area, two lightning-triggered fires that merged on the west side of Sequoia National Park in the Sierra Nevada .

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The giant sequoia known as the General Sherman Tree with its base wrapped in a fire retardant blanket to protect it from the intense heat of approaching wildfires in California’s Sequoia National Forest. (South Zone Blue Incident Management Team via TBEN)

The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning until Sunday, saying gusts and lower humidity could create conditions for the rapid spread of wildfires.

The fires forced the evacuation of the park last week, as well as parts of Three Rivers, a hilltop town of about 2,500 residents. Firefighters using bulldozers widened the line between the blaze and the community, firefighter spokeswoman Rebecca Paterson said on Sunday.

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Over 34 square miles of forest land has been blackened.

The National Park Service said on Friday that the fire had reached the westernmost point of the giant forest, where it burned a group of redwoods known as the “Four Guards” which mark the entrance to the grove of 2,000 redwoods. .

Since then, the crews have managed to keep the flames from spreading further into the area.

“The fire perimeter sort of wraps around the giant forest at this point,” Paterson said.

Firefighters swaddled the base of the General Sherman tree, along with other trees in the Giant Forest, in a type of aluminum that can withstand high heat.

The General Sherman Tree is the world’s largest by volume, at 52,508 cubic feet, according to the National Park Service. It stands at 275 feet tall and has a circumference of 103 feet at ground level.

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Firefighters who wrapped the base of the redwoods in foil and swept leaves and needles from the forest floor around the trees had to flee the danger, firefighter spokeswoman Katy Hooper said on Saturday. They returned when conditions improved to continue work and start a strategic fire along the Generals Highway to protect the giant forest grove, she said.

Wildfire Sequoia Grove

A fire truck drives past redwoods in Lost Grove as the KNP complex fire burns about 15 miles away on September 17, 2021, in Sequoia National Park (TBEN Photo / Noah Berger)

Giant sequoias are adapted to fire, which can help them thrive by releasing seeds from their cones and creating clearings that allow young sequoias to thrive. But the extraordinary intensity of fires – fueled by climate change – can overwhelm trees.

“Once the fire burns inside the tree, it will cause mortality,” said Jon Wallace, operations section chief at the KNP complex.

Fires have already burned in several groves containing trees as high as 200 feet tall and 2,000 years old.

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To the south, the Windy Fire has reached 28 square miles in the Tule River Indian Reservation and Giant Sequoias National Monument, where it burned the Peyrone Redwood Grove and threatened others.

The fire had also reached Long Meadow Grove, where the 100 Giant Sequoias Trail is a national monument. Firefighters have not yet been able to determine the extent of damage to the groves, which are in remote and hard-to-reach areas. However, active flames were seen by an The Bharat Express News photographer burning the trunk and the forest floor below was on fire.

The historic drought linked to climate change makes forest fires more difficult to fight. He killed millions of trees in California alone. Scientists say climate change has made the West much hotter and drier over the past 30 years and will continue to make weather conditions more extreme and forest fires more frequent and destructive.

More than 7,000 California wildfires this year have damaged or destroyed more than 3,000 homes and other buildings and burned down more than 3,000 square miles of land, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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